Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a rather straightforward platformer that elevates its overall offering with a combination of charming visuals and a surprisingly touching narrative.
As a game, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a combination of platformer and puzzle game that is more accessible than many titles in the genre. The gameplay is less about pixel perfect precision platforming (say that ten times fast) and more focused on exploring and adding to the world around our protagonist, Izzy. Izzy makes for an intriguing protagonist, as the game’s writer does a wonderful job of narrating the world from this young girl’s perspective.
The writing is downright charming, with Lost Words: Beyond the Page touching on some very real, poignant emotions related to grief and coping. These real-world events are processed by Izzy and the gamer is given choices that have a very real impact on the fantasy world Izzy is creating. She is a child writing a story, and this story impacts the actual game world that her own created character Robyn inhabits. The structure sort of reminded me of a childhood favorite movie of mine, The NeverEnding Story. Sometimes these choices are simply small and cosmetic, but there are other times they carry more significant weight and in the end I found almost all of them to be fascinating flashpoints for me, the actual gamer.
This narrative and the choice structure is one half of the game, and sets the stage for the actual puzzle / platforming gameplay. The mechanics are pretty basic here, with nothing particularly new or even all that challenging. It was enjoyable progressing through the stages themselves, revealing the world Izzy was creating – but the magic / puzzle solving seldom provided any particularly rewarding sense of completion as they were all fairly simple. The magic mostly boils down to interacting with certain objects and manipulating them to complete the puzzle and continuing onward. They work well within the stages and feel organic to the story Izzy is crafting for us – they just don’t provide much satisfaction upon completion.
This is not a long game – clocking in around four and a half hours to complete, but the marriage of gameplay and narrative is where the meat of my enjoyment came into play. Those looking for a real challenge will likely not come away satisfied with the gameplay, but those who are here for the well-written story will likely enjoy the time spent here a great deal more. The writing is fantastic and there were moments where my heartstrings were getting tugged by Izzy’s emotions sometimes literally spilling out onto the pages of her story.
There is an undeniable charm to the music, sound effects and visuals in Lost Words: Beyond the Page. The graphics are not particularly detailed, the landscapes often a bit open and barren at times; but the use of color and 2.5D is still effective in giving life to Izzy’s story. These stages reflect the tone of the story and I found myself looking forward to the next journal / narrative segment just to see how it would play out in the level. My fascination had less to do with navigating the levels themselves but seeing how these disparate halves of the game tied together.
One of the title’s best tricks though, despite the somewhat simple-looking environments is how they stages tie into Izzy’s writing sessions. As someone who has spent most of his life writing things that have occupied my imagination, the primary hook for me is how neatly this is all tied together. I have made a couple of references to how great the overall writing is, but it really is the lifeblood of this game.
As an entire package, Lost Words: Beyond the Page struggles a bit to find its identity. The colorful visuals and relatively basic, accessible gameplay makes this title feel as though it is targeted to a younger audience. That being said, the narrative notes, despite being told through the eyes of a child, actually have some mature themes that resonated to me as an adult. That leaves Lost Words: Beyond the Page in sort of a weird space. I enjoyed the experience, but it does come across a bit unevenly at times.